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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 48, New Delhi, November 14, 2020

LETTER TO THE READERS - Mainstream, November 14, 2020

Friday 13 November 2020

Letter to the readers, Mainstream, Nov 14

The just-concluded November 2020 State Assembly elections in Bihar were very closely contested. In a large number of constituencies, the margin between the winners and losers was below 500 votes. The Opposition alliance of social democratic and Left parties performed quite well but could not get another 15-20 seats they had expected, which would have led them to victory. The final tally gave the ruling NDA alliance in Bihar 125 seats and the Opposition logged 110 seats in the 243 seat Assembly. The party leading the Opposition alliance, the RJD, has complained to the Election Commission regarding irregularities in the results in some 12 seats; Tejasvi Yadav the leader of RJD is seeking a postal ballot recount. There are allegations that the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s office tried to pressurise the local administration and this in turn created untoward conditions for the election officials. It is difficult to say if there was wrongdoing. The Far-Left party CPI-ML, did exceptionally well. Active and longterm cooperation between the Left and social democratic parties is the only route to forging a challenge to the total hegemony of the BJP in Indian politics today.

In an interview to the Indian Express, the General Secretary of the CPI-ML Dipankar Bhattacharya has said something very important. We we would like to quote him here:

"In West Bengal and Assam, the number one priority of the Left must be to stop the BJP…I think the Left has to get its act together in Bengal. So rather than competing with the BJP in opposing the Trinamool…it should be the other way around. Of course we will oppose the Trinamool wherever necessary, but let us contend with it against the BJP. The BJP has to be recognised as the No. 1 threat to democracy across the country and also inside West Bengal."

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The patriarchal and conservative mindset of India’s ruling party shines every day. The official endorsement by India’s Ministry of Culture’s of the Hindu ritual of ’karwa-chauth’ demonstrates a north Indian bias and also glorifies at a national level a regressive ritual that marks gender inequality. It should not be the business of a secular state to be promoting any religio-cultural ritual of a particular community. The cultural political bias shows every passing day. The recent moves by several BJP run State governments to target inter-faith marriage are also part of this ideological trend to create social distance rather than promote the making of a cosmopolitan and mixed culture.

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In India’s neighbourhood, on November 8 Myanmar held its second election since the end of military rule in 2015. The Union Election Commission, which organised the poll, has released half the results so far. It seems that Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won 399 of the 476 seats in the two chambers of the legislature. That is enough to form a government. Aung San Suu Kyi appears to continue her hold on power despite huge international criticism for the war against minorities and bringing into disrepute her Nobel prize as a ’democrat’

There is hardly any discussion in India on the elections in Myanmar. People to people contact is very limited between Indians and the citizens of neighbouring countries. Government to Government relations, of course, continue in ways they do. All we hear on that front is that India recently donated a Soviet-era submarine to Myanmar to keep ’good’ ties with Myanmar.

Tributes:

Prof. CP Bhambri, the well known political scientist from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi passed away on November 9 at the age of 87. Professor Bhambri was a Marxist scholar and had been hugely popular with his students

The Argentine film director and politician Fernando ‘Pino’ Solanas, died on November 6 at age 84 in Paris, where he worked as his country’s ambassador to UNESCO.

Saeb Erekat, the key Palestinian negotiator for a peaceful solution with Israel and Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, died on November 10. He had been hospitalised after having contracted Covid-19.

Kuldeep Singh, the much-respected architect of Public buildings and also a town-planner in India, passed away on November 10. Among the wide range of his work, is his design of the iconic National Cooperatives Development Corporation (NCDC) building located on Sri Fort Road in New Delhi in 1980 — in the architectural tradition of what is referred to as ’brutalism’.

Nelly Kaplan, the Argentine-born French woman was an iconic Anarcho-Feminist filmmaker known for her films part of French new-wave cinema. She passed away on November 12 in Geneva after contacting Covid-19.

We pay our homage to these personalities.

November 14, 2020 - The Editor

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